The Weekend Wanderer: 23 October 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


125694“How Might the COVID-19 Crisis Reshape our Churches for Good?” – Kyuboem Lee in Christianity Today: “In March 2020, as the American public only began to grasp the growing scope of the global pandemic, we suddenly went into a shutdown. Churches could no longer meet in person; many scrambled to find ways to broadcast their Sunday services online instead. Initially, many of us thought (wishfully, as it turned out) that the shutdown would last a few weeks and we would return to normal. But the shutdown dragged out for months and months. Many churches were unable to meet in person for more than a year. Pastors began wondering out loud to me if their churches would survive financially. They fretted about their buildings, sitting empty week after week. They were concerned about giving amid sudden job losses and economic downturn. They worried about a drop-off in online service attendance. There was much cause for deep anxiety, and the pandemic’s long-term impact on churches may be felt for years to come. But I don’t believe that the pandemic is a crisis we simply need to recover from. Instead, the crisis of the pandemic and its aftereffects presents an opportunity to reshape the church in transformative ways. It offers us a moment of clarity to perceive our need for reinvention for the sake of our mission.”


womanlightingcandleembed“Responding to Persecution: Where Western Christians would stand and fight, Eastern Christians have learned to endure – or flee” – Luma Simms in Plough: “In 2007, my friend Ishraq was an Iraqi biologist working in quality control in a government agency testing products coming into the country for contaminants – food products and plants, anything meant for consumption or planting – a job she had studied and worked hard to attain, a job she loved. Her husband, Luay, owned a car dealership. Although other Christians were leaving Iraq after the chaos that engulfed the country after the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, they didn’t want to leave their homeland. With the increase in crime and the abduction of Christians, they thought it best to sell the dealership and wait it out until things settled back down. One rainy day as Luay got ready to drive Ishraq to work, two cars pulled up in front of them. Men got out and snatched Luay. As they dragged him through the mud, she grabbed hold of his leg, shrieking. One of the kidnappers disentangled her from Luay and flung her off. ‘I lost my mind, I was screaming like a crazy woman, I was screaming for someone to come help us,’ she remembers. The men shoved Luay into one of their cars and left. A minute later a police officer came driving by and stopped when he heard her crying. He got out and stood over her as she lay shaking on the ground. When she told him what had happened, it became clear he knew who the kidnappers were. ‘He gave me his card and told me that when the kidnappers called me to ask for ransom money, to let him know and he’ll see what he can do. I told him, “What you can do is get in the car and go after them right now.” The policeman left and I just sat there in the mud on the side of the street wailing.'”


imrs.php“You’re a different person when you travel. Here’s why, and how to transform yourself at home.” – Jen Rose Smith in The Washington Post: “Every so often, I pack a bag for a solo trip that lasts as long as I can manage. The lifelong habit has weathered career changes, a pandemic and marriage. ‘Where is your husband?’ people ask. ‘Why are you here alone?’ ‘He’s at home,’ I say, perhaps while splashing through leech-filled mudholes in Borneo. ‘Because I like traveling by myself.’ I’m after more than sightseeing. Family, home and work are magnetic poles in my life; at times, I need to consult my personal compass away from the strong pull that they exert. When I leave familiar things behind, I look at the world with fresh eyes. Strange foods become new favorites. Curiosity surges. I am a different person when I travel. In her book, Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, sociologist Karen Stein sheds light on the reasons that travelers, whether they’re going it alone or with friends, might feel different when on the road. She argues that travel is a chance to try out alternate identities — a temporary respite from ourselves.”


main-v00-81-1536x1024“China crackdown on Apple store hits holy book apps, Audible” – Matt O’brien at Religion News Service: “Amazon’s audiobook service Audible and phone apps for reading the holy books of Islam and Christianity have disappeared from the Apple store in mainland China, the latest examples of the impact of the country’s tightened rules for internet firms. Audible said Friday that it removed its app from the Apple store in mainland China last month ‘due to permit requirements.’ The makers of apps for reading and listening to the Quran and Bible say their apps have also been removed from Apple’s China-based store at the government’s request. Apple didn’t return requests for comment Friday. A spokesperson for China’s embassy in the U.S. declined to speak about specific app removals but said the Chinese government has ‘always encouraged and supported the development of the Internet.’ ‘At the same time, the development of the Internet in China must also comply with Chinese laws and regulations,’ said an emailed statement from Liu Pengyu. China’s government has long sought to control the flow of information online, but is increasingly stepping up its enforcement of the internet sector in other ways, making it hard to determine the causes for a particular app’s removal.”


29russellmooreembeddove“Integrity and the Future of the Church” – Russell Moore in Plough Quarterly: “Something was happening at the Vatican; I cannot remember if the issue was another sexual abuse cover-up or a contentious synod meeting. But I do remember seeing a woman I knew to be a serious Roman Catholic post on her social media an old music video, with no commentary. The video, R.E.M.’s 1991 song ‘Losing My Religion,’ prompted friends to ask if she had lost her faith. She responded that she hadn’t, but was afraid that she was losing her church. No wonder her friends were concerned. The song, after all, has entered popular culture as the soundtrack to almost any story of an ex-Catholic or an ‘ex-vangelical.’…In light of the current crisis of religion – seen perhaps most starkly in my own American evangelical subculture – I’m not sure that these are entirely different things. Perhaps ‘losing religion’ now is about both interpretations of the song, if not as much about intellect and argumentation as about grief, betrayal, and anger.”


John Coltrane

“Coltrane’s New ‘Love Supreme'” – Adam Shatz in The New York Review: “At a press conference in Tokyo in July 1966, a Japanese jazz critic asked John Coltrane what he would like to be in ten years. “I would like to be a saint,” he replied. Coltrane, who died the following July of liver cancer, at forty, reportedly laughed when he said this; but among his followers, he was already considered a spiritual leader, even a prophet. His reputation rested not merely on his musicianship, but on the example he set, the self-renunciation and good works required of every saint. Unlike the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who launched the bebop revolution with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Coltrane was not a fully formed virtuoso when he first emerged, but rather a committed and tireless student of the horn—a hardworking man who arrived at his sound through a practice regime of almost excruciating discipline. “He practiced like a man with no talent,” his friend the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson remembered. The saxophonist Archie Shepp, one of Coltrane’s many protégés, exaggerated only slightly when he remarked that he never saw him take the sax from his mouth. The trumpeter Miles Davis, in whose mid-Fifties quintet Coltrane first rose to prominence, made the same observation, though more in exasperation than worship.”


Music: John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme, Pt IV – Psalm (Live),” A Love Supreme – Live in Seattle.

Ed Stetzer on “Church Leadership in a Post-COVID World”

In case you missed it, here is the video from Sunday afternoon’s Leadership Community event at Eastbrook on the church leadership in a post-COVID world with Dr. Ed Stetzer. Ed joined us for this session to augment our annual MissionsFest, which began this weekend.

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story.

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 October 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Ed Stetzer“When will Christians learn from the unending engagement cycle of evangelicalism and race?” – Ed Stetzer in USAToday: “As the executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, one of my joys is leading people through our museum. Filled with historical artifacts and pictures, it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness. One of my favorite pictures is of Billy Graham standing next to Martin Luther King Jr. I start by telling people how Graham took down segregation ropes for his meetings in the South. But the story doesn’t stop there. Historian Grant Wacker notes that as the civil rights movement intensified, Graham distanced himself from King by attempting to chart a moderate path. Decades later, Graham himself would speak of his lack of engagement in the civil rights movement as one of his great regrets. This same story of engagement, retreat and regret has come to define an evangelical culture that is bigger than Billy Graham. For more than a century, the broader evangelical movement has been in a cycle of engagement when opportunities arise, retreat when pressures and obstacles intensify, and regret at the failure to achieve any lasting change. Worse, the burden of this regret too frequently falls on evangelicals of color, as they are left abandoned only to be greeted with new promises next cycle.”


1067980“Donetsk: Three Protestant churches banned” – Felix Corley at Forum 18: “The unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, has this summer banned three Protestant churches. One of the churches appears still able to meet for worship as it tries to gain registration. The rebel entity’s latest Religion Law change restricts registered religious associations’ activities to “participants and/or members”. In June the Culture Minister ordered musical and other artistic institutions to display lists of banned books & organisations.”


Biopolitics“‘Biopolitics’ Are Unavoidable” – Matthew Loftus at Mere Orthodoxy: “In the struggle to fight COVID-19, terms like ‘public health’ and ‘community health’ have been bandied about in an attempt to describe the ways in which our health as individuals is not dependent on ourselves alone. Wendell Berry says: ‘I believe that the community — in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures — is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.’ Berry’s statement speaks to our intuition that not only our individual activities, but also the health of the people, animals, plants, microbes, air, water, and soil around us all affect our health and we in turn affect them. As often as modern human beings would like to think of themselves as autonomous agents who determine their own bodily destinies, the reality is that the only appreciable limit to our contingency is how many things around us we can name. From this observation about the nature of our bodies we can move to a theological understanding of health.”


GettyImages-1234554084-e1628612279165“The Bible and COVID Vaccines” – Mark Talbot at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “Does the Bible offer us any insight into whether we should take the COVID vaccine? I think it does when we think through the implications of the early chapters of Genesis. Right before God made the first human beings, he declared why he was making them: ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’ (Gen. 1:26). God made us to be his earthly images who would represent him by ruling wisely and lovingly over the rest of creation. Then, immediately after making our first parents, he gave them what is often called the creation mandate; namely, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). God, as the psalmist puts it, gave the earth to us (see Ps. 115:16). We are meant to rule over it by exercising dominion over the animals and subduing whatever needs to be subdued.”


typewriter“5 Contemporary Poets Christians Should Read” – Mischa Willett at The Gospel Coalition: “I’m always a little sad after a poetry reading when someone comes up and tells me they’re ‘really into Christian poets,’ and when I ask excitedly ‘which ones?’ they rattle off a short list that ends with Gerard Manley Hopkins or George Herbert. Not that those poets aren’t required reading—absolute masters of the form and of the heart’s hows—but because there is so much good crop still being pulled from the fertile fields of theologically inflected verse. I always wish I carried around a backpack full of books by Mark Jarman, or Jennifer Maier, or Dana Gioia, to thrust into their readerly hands, beaming, ‘It’s still happening!’ It would be a kind of ministry, edifying the body thus. Here then is my own short list of contemporary poets of faith Christians should read.”


Justice Songs“Why Don’t We Sing Justice Songs in Worship?” – Michael J. Rhodes in Christianity Today: “In 2018, an unusual Bible made national news. Published in 1807, the so-called ‘Slave Bible’ offered Caribbean slaves a highly edited edition of the KJV. The editors presumably cut out parts of Scripture that could undermine slavery or incite rebellion. If you want a pro-slavery Bible, it’s unsurprising you’d get rid of the exodus story or drop Paul’s declaration that in Christ ‘there is … neither slave nor free’ (Gal. 3:28). But why did the creators of the ‘Slave Bible’ cut out the Book of Psalms? After all, the portions that tend to be well known and well-loved draw our minds toward well-tended sheep sitting by quiet waters. Yet upon closer inspection, Psalms is obsessed with the Lord’s liberating justice for the oppressed. And because the book offers us prayers and songs, it doesn’t just tell us how to think about justice—it offers us scripts to practice shouting and singing about it. But when I recently took a quick look at the lyrics of the first 25 songs listed in the ‘CCLI Top 100′ worship songs reportedly sung by churches and compared them to the way the Psalms sing about justice, I realized that we don’t necessarily follow that script.”


Music: Tim Hughes, “God of Justice,” Holding Nothing Back.

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 October 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


St Augustine burning heart“The Greatest Care Is Needed: Augustine on Moral Discernment and Church Leadership” – Joey Sherrard at Center for Pastor Theologians: “Augustine of Hippo was one of the first and greatest catechists of the church. He was a pastor in a time of great conflict and schism, a time when the church was beset by external challenges and internal turmoil. And one his most important pastoral responses to the crises he faced was the work of catechesis – the instruction and formation of men and women in the truths and implications of the Christian faith. A fruit of that ministry was a catechetical handbook he wrote for his fellow pastors, On Instructing Beginners in the Faith. It’s a remarkable combination of theological conviction and practical counsel, and from that little volume I’d like to draw two implications for pastors today in our own time of turmoil – specifically the turmoil caused by abuse within the local church.”


Noonday Demon“Varieties of the Noonday Demon” – Kurt Armstrong in Comment: “A quick scan of the Canadian Mental Health Association website tells me that in a normal year, one in five Canadians will experience some sort of mental health problem or mental illness. At least 8 or 9 percent will suffer major depression at some point in their lives, 2 percent live with chronic depression, 1 percent are bipolar. If we were to zoom in then on an average Sunday morning at my little neighbourhood Anglican church, it would follow that about thirty-five people will suffer some kind of mental illness this year, fourteen will suffer major depression at some point, three or four are chronic depressives, and one or two are bipolar. No doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed all those numbers higher. But even before the pandemic, the actual numbers at my church would have been above average. Not because Anglicanism is especially bad for mental health, but because the little congregation I am a part of attracts a disproportionate number of sensitive, creative, and intelligent women and men, precisely the kind of people who tend to suffer more mental health trouble than most. It’s a good place to be when you’re low, especially the Sunday evening service, when the lights are dimmed, attendance is sparse, and the service includes long periods of silence. Plus, the chances of hearing a cheery, don’t-worry-be-happy kind of sermon are next to nil. If you are depressed, it’s a good place to sit for an hour at the end of a Sunday.”


_112099487_church“Young more likely to pray than over-55s – survey” – From Harry Farley at the BBC: “Young people in the UK are twice as likely as older people to pray regularly, a new survey has found. Some 51% of 18 to 34-year-olds polled by Savanta ComRes said they pray at least once a month, compared with 24% of those aged 55 and over. It also found 49% of the younger age group attend a place of worship every month, compared with 16% of over-55s. The associate director of Savanta said the numbers could reflect the move to online worship during the pandemic. Chris Hopkins added that there were ‘a few theories’ as to why young people made up such a large proportion of the religious landscape.”


webRNS-Kirk-Franklin-LeanOnMe1-092821-640x640“Kirk Franklin rereleases ‘Lean on Me’ with virtual global children’s choir” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service: “Kirk Franklin, like many musicians, has pivoted to online performances during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 16-Grammy winner brought his contemporary gospel music to NPR’s Tiny Desk, and he took part in a virtual benefit to draw attention to poor children across the world whose lives have been changed by COVID-19. On Friday (Sept. 24), Franklin’s entertainment company and Compassion International jointly rereleased a remake of his “Lean on Me” single featuring a virtual choir of more than 120 youth who live in 25 countries where the humanitarian organization has a presence.”


Dante Purgatorio“Reading Dante’s Purgatory While the World Hangs in the Balance” – Judith Thurman in The New Yorker: “Fifty years ago, I was a guest at the baptism of a friend’s son in the ancient church of a Tuscan hamlet. It was Easter, and lambing season. A Sardinian shepherd who tended the flocks of a local landowner came to pay his respects to the new parents. He was a wild-looking man with matted hair whose harsh dialect was hard to understand. Among our party was a beauty of fifteen, an artist’s daughter, and the shepherd took such a fancy to her that he asked for her hand. The girl’s father politely declined, and the shepherd, to show that he had no hard feelings, offered us a lamb for our Paschal dinner. My friends were penniless bohemians, so the gift was welcome. It came, however, with a condition: we had to watch the lamb being slaughtered. The blood sacrifice took place after the baptism. That morning, the baby’s godfather, an expatriate writer, had caused a stir in the church, since none of the villagers, most of them farmers, had ever seen a Black man in person. Some tried to touch his hands, to see if the color would rub off; there was a sense of awe among them, as if one of the Magi had come to visit. Toward the end of the ceremony, the moment came for the sponsors to ‘renounce Satan and . . . all his seductions of sin and evil.’ The godfather had been raised in a pious community, and he entered into the spirit of this one. His own experience of malevolence had taught him, as he wrote, that life ‘is not moral.’ Yet he stood gravely at the font and vowed, ‘Rinuncio.'”


Josh McDowell“Christian author Josh McDowell steps away from ministry after comments about Black, minority families” – Bob Smietana at Religion News Service: “A best-selling Christian author and speaker denounced the idea of systemic racism at a national gathering of Christian counselors, saying Black Americans and other minorities were not raised to value hard work or education. Josh McDowell, best known for his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict and other books defending the Christian faith, gave a speech Saturday (Sept. 18) at a meeting of the American Association of Christian Counselors. The talk, entitled ‘The Five Greatest Global Epidemics,’ identified a series of threats McDowell claims face the Christian church. The first, he said, was critical race theory, an academic field of study on the nature of systemic racism. Known by the acronym CRT, critical race theory has become controversial among Christian conservatives and political conservatives alike.”


Music: Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno, “An Ending (Ascent),” fromApollo – Atmospheres & Soundtracks.

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 August 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“‘They Cannot Burn Jesus Out of Me’: Mozambique Pastors Minister to Survivors of Violent Insurgency” – Stefani McDade in Christianity Today: “Back in April, when armed men began attacking his village in the middle of the night, a pastor of a local church in northern Mozambique woke his family to flee. He took his two older sons and his wife took their two younger sons. In the midst of chaos and confusion, shouting and shooting, they escaped in two different directions. The pastor and his sons hid in the surrounding bush all night before returning to the village, near the town of Palma, to look for the rest of their family. The next morning, he found their hut caved in and the remains of his four-year-old son, who had been beheaded by the attackers. All he and his sons could do was dig a hole in the ground to bury the young boy’s body and weep together. To this day, his wife and second-youngest son are still missing.”


“The Best C. S. Lewis Book You’ve Never Read” – Jeremy Larson reviews Michael Ward’s new guide to reading C. S. Lewis Abolition of Man at The Gospel Coalition: “C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, first published in 1943, begins with a related question: Should a comment about the sublimity of a waterfall be seen as an expression of a subjective opinion or as an appropriate feeling that aligns with reality? Abolition was one of Lewis’s favorites among his works and it has been ranked as one of the top five nonfiction books (in English) of the 20th century. Yet Abolition remains difficult reading for many people, leading some to wish for a guide. Michael Ward (author of Planet Narnia) has written such a book to help readers: After Humanity: A Guide to C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.”


“4 Stats That Will Change the Way You Pastor” – From CT Creative Studio: “Casey Cleveland, lead pastor of The Avenue Church in Delray, Florida, has a hunch. ‘I’m catching the vibe that people want the church to be the church,’ he says. ‘Even for those who don’t understand theology—the world is asking us to step into being the church.’ Cleveland isn’t the only one catching the vibe. New research from Barna and Gloo shows that people across the country have expectations for the churches in their communities. Even those who haven’t darkened the door of a church in decades have thoughts about the church’s role in society.”


“Ignorant, but curious” – Austin Kleon at his blog: “‘What if you played an ignorant guy who was actually curious?’ is how the actor Jason Sudeikis explains his approach to his character, Ted Lasso.1 It’s a method of acting, but it could be a method of life. (A method we’ve covered before: ‘Teach your tongue to say I don’t know’ and ‘learn to play the fool.’) The method is perhaps best summarized by Mike Monteiro: ‘The secret to being good at anything is to approach it like a curious idiot, rather than a know-it-all genius.’ The ‘curious idiot’ approach can serve you well if you can quiet your ego long enough to perform it.”


“Bookworms can ‘read’ people, too” – Mary Ellen Gabriel at UW College of Letters & Science: “More than any other genre, fiction is the realm of emotion. “Getting lost in a story” means entering a world we don’t want to leave, where we are fully absorbed not only in the actions of the characters, but also in their thoughts, feelings and motivations. Throughout the experience, readers pass through their own emotion states, triggered by the words and phrases. Now it appears that this rich, often fraught, journey of the imagination—so often considered a solitary pleasure—is good training for reading the emotions of people in real life. A new study by a team of psychology researchers at UW-Madison provides important new insight into a likely causal link between reading fiction and emotion recognition, combining behavioral experiments with methods from the digital humanities to show that exploring the mental states of fictional characters helps people recognize emotion expression in other human beings.”


“Astronomy Photographer of the Year shortlist” – From the Royal Museums Greenwich: “The shortlisted images from 2021’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed. The largest astrophotography competition in the world, Astronomy Photographer of the Year showcases the very best space photography from a global community of photographers. Now in its 13th year, the competition received a staggering 4,500-plus entries, submitted from 75 countries worldwide. Check out an incredible selection of the shortlisted images below.”


Music: Vikingur Ólafsson, “Badzura: Muse d’eau,” from Reflections Pt. 3 / RWKS.